Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Israel vs. the Palestinians, cont.

Related to my post from yesterday, Aaron David Miller offers some smart suggestions to the Obama administration for handling the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dating Advice

My sister, Shawna, tells me that I really should ask her advice on matters concerning dating and relationships. I don't think she realizes that I already have a plan.



That's style right there. No, better than that - panache. That guy has panache.

Shut Up!

I hate people who talk during movies as much as the next guy, so on a certain level I do sympathize with this guy.

A man angry that a family was talking during a movie threw popcorn at the son and then shot the father in the arm, according to police in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

I think the best bit is definitely the throwing of popcorn at the kid. From that to shooting the dad. That is some serious escalation of force.

"Those bastards won't shut up. Maybe if I throw popcorn, that'll shut 'em up."

Throws popcorn.

"Damn it. That didn't work. I guess I'm just gonna have to shoot Pops. In the arm, of course. Wouldn't want to hurt him too badly. Just enough to tell him to shut the hell up."

Proceeds to shoot dad in arm.

Ha! That'll learn him, he thinks too himself. "Oh, quit yer cryin'! It's only a flesh wound."

Returns to movie. A few minutes pass.

"Oh, hullo officer. What's the problem?"

My Sentiments Exactly

There has been lots of snow here lately and more is to come. I don't know where this pic originally came from but it sums up my feelings about winter rather succinctly.

Israel vs. the Palestinians

While much of the world condemns Israel's recent attacks on Palestinians, some, like Rod Dreher, though fervently defend Israel's move.

How can Israel be expected to make peace with devils like that? Why should Israel tolerate rockets being sent by Hamas against Israeli villages? It is terrible that Palestinian civilians are dying today by Israeli bombs. But their blood is on the hands of the jihadi terrorists of Hamas.

Of course Israel should not tolerate terrorism against their citizens. And, of course, Israel should take steps to defend itself. The problem is that Israel is not taking the hard political action they need to in order to make progress on this issue. Why have they not completely their illegal settlements? Why have they not been more willing to work out a two-state solution? Why do they not realize that there is no military solution for terrorism?

Let me stress that none of Israel's actions excuse the terrorist actions against them. However, isn't it understandable on a certain level what the Palestinians feel? They were forced out of their homes, forced from their land and they watched it all given to the Jews. Wouldn't that make anyone mad? Not just mad, but furious? Especially when no suitable compensation was offered in return. The Palestinians were not offered an equal political say. They were not given anything in return.

This post is not to debate the morality of the creation of the modern state of Israel, but I do believe that the circumstances of it place a greater moral burden on the Israelis. They should not compromise their safety, but if they need to go more than half-way, then they should. By occupying land that was not theirs, that someone else was forced out of to make way, the Jews took on the burden of having to be the ones with the greater imperative to make the new situation work. The Holocaust was horrific, but that does not give the Israelis an excuse to treat others poorly.

The Captain Returns

Alright, it's about time I got back to writing here. I've been bookmarking articles and flagging stuff in Google Reader like crazy, but with everything that has been going on, I have struggled to find the time or even the will, really, to get on here and post. However, now that things are looking up, I want to get back into the swing of things. So, without further ado...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Custody Hearing



It's hard to describe what I feel right now, an odd mixture of relief and euphoria. The show cause hearing was today for my custody case. I've hardly been able to think of anything else these past few weeks as today drew nearer and nearer. At times I felt very confident while other times I felt like I didn't stand a chance. I've been listless and distracted much of the time, barely able to concentrate on work or homework. My mom asked me yesterday if I felt optimistic about the case. "No, I don't," I said. "But I don't feel pessimistic either. I just feel...like I'm drowning." It seems an eternity has passed since I first began this process, but it has only been about six months. I had to keep telling myself that as stressful (I hate how that word has become overused, but I think I'm justified this time) as this has been for me, this is much harder for Erica and Shaena. I also had to bear in mind that as bad as this is going to be for them, it is for a better end. Keep your eye on the prize and all that.

Today it paid off. My ex-wife did not even show up for the hearing. Oh, she knew about it and no doubt she has an answer for why she did not that makes sense to her. I'll go ahead and thank her for making my job easier. The girls' counselor testified first and then I did. Probably the most nerve-wracking thing I have ever done in my life. I'd rather jump out of a plane. Then the judge made her decision.

She ruled in my favor for the most part. In the interim I will be the primary custodial parent. Provided my ex-wife gets a day job so that she can be with the girls in the evening, attends counseling with them, allows them to participate in extr-curricular activities, and makes sure that they get to the (public!) school I will be enrolling them in during the time they are with her, she can file for a 50/50 custody arrangement. I have a hard time seeing her do this especially counseling.

I am so excited. This has been a weight on me for so long now. Before I took actual concrete steps this summer to make this happen, I had been contemplating it for years. Erica and Shaena have been in such a negative, abusive environment and it pained me to see it. Now, though, perhaps some healing can begin.

None of this would have been possible without some very generous people. The St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation and my co-worker and friend, Brenda Nagel. They donated a very generous sum of money which allowed me to obtain a lawyer. My lawyer, Brooke Baracker, at Elk River Law did a wonderful job guiding me through this and helping me make the best case I could. And, of course, all of my friends and family who have offered moral support through this ordeal. To those who came to court today - Mom, Dad, Jean, Sharie, Shawna, Brenda, and Jeromy - you don't know how much that meant to me. You couldn't be in the courtroom (privacy issues because of the minors involved), but just knowing you were waiting right outside made it that much more bearable inside.

Finally, of course, I have to say thank you to the two smartest, most talented, most compassionate, and most beautiful girls in the world. Erica and Shaena, you have come through so much and, unfortunately, the journey is not over, yet. There will be many more obstacles and pitfalls along the way. I am only human and though I try to be the best father I can, I know I have made mistakes. I will make more of them. Thank you for putting up with me and my follies. Thank you for staying with me through all of this.

Thank you for continuing to say, "Dad, I love you." Erica and Shaena, my sweet angels, I love you, too.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Overconfident Teens

A new study says that teens are no longer too insecure, they are overconfident.

Researchers compared responses from teens in 1975 and 2006, asking questions about their qualities and abilities. The study, published last month, found that today's kids consider themselves to be far more intelligent and capable than their 1970s counterparts, and more likely to report being "completely satisfied" with themselves.
...
In fact, according to the study's co-author, associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University Jean Twenge, for today's youth "confidence has crossed over into overconfidence." Too much self-esteem (overconfidence) may be just as damaging as too little self-esteem.

Twenge and other researchers believe that the decades of efforts to boost self-esteem may have created unrealistic expectations in today's youth, and their inflated self-esteem may lead to a sense of entitlement: "I'm great, so I deserve great things."

Sadly, it's not just teens. The entitlement mentality seems to pervade much of our society. I think it's one of the reasons we are currently in the dire economic straits we are. Everyone thinks their special, that they deserve special treatment, and that the rules really don't apply to them.

I think these people need to be introduced to Tyler Durden. "You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else."

Weekly Music Video

'Tis the season. And who better to say "Happy Lootday!" than these guys?

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - "Christmas Canon"

Weekly Secret



PostSecret

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Unfocused

I mentioned awhile back that I have filed for custody of my daughters. The show cause hearing has finally been scheduled, the 16th of this month. As the date approaches I am finding it more and more difficult to focus on anything. Trying to get any homework done has been a joke. Work? I find myself sitting at my desk staring at my computer, clicking the mouse around, looking around a little, and suddenly an hour has passed. I can't hardly think about anything else, at least not with any modicum of concentration. It's aggravating because I have a lot of stuff to do, but I don't think it's going to change until after the hearing. It's just the initial hearing so it won't be the end of it, but at least it will be started. I'm on the edge of my seat.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Emptiness of the Prosperity Gospel

Lisa Miller has harsh words for the Osteens and their message.

Prosperity preachers are neither new nor unique in America, but the Osteens' version seems especially self-serving. Victoria's book betrays her interest in the kind of small gratifications that rarely extend to other people, let alone to the larger world. She recommends that women take "me time" every day, and indulge occasionally in a (fat-free!) ice cream. She writes repeatedly about her love for the gym. Her relationship advice is retrograde dross: submit to your man, or at least pretend you're submitting, and then do what you want anyway. "I know if I just wait long enough," she writes, "eventually my idea will become Joel's idea, and it will come to pass." When I asked her how she kept her two children interested in church, she answered that even though they were a broccoli and lean-meats household, she gave them doughnuts as a special treat on Sundays. All this is fine, in the pages of a women's magazine or a self-help book. But what has God got to do with it?

The problem with the prosperity gospel is that it is not rooted in any honest reading of the Bible. Bits and pieces get picked out to support the message, but you can't take Bible verses out of the context they are packaged in. Prosperity preachers are certainly not the only Christian group to do this, but their interpretation certainly speaks to our culture today, doesn't it? The message is all about getting stuff and taking the easy road. God wants you to be rich. God wants you to have lots of material things. God wants you to have a luxurious life without hardship. I find it hard to reconcile that with the teachings of Jesus, but maybe that's just me.

It will be interesting to see how the prosperity gospel weathers the global economic crisis. Will people be comforted by a materialistic message like the one preached by Joel Osteen or will we see people start to move away from their incessant desire for things robbing the prosperity gospel of its base? Who knows, but it will be interesting to watch.

The Search for Extraterrestrial Life

I hope that the economic downturn does not affect projects like the Allen Telescope Array which searches the cosmos for radio signals that could indicate intelligent life. There seems to be a number of people who question research like this that isn't producing hard, tangible results right now, but I don't. Maybe it's the dreamer in me, but I get excited about stuff like this. All science, all research has value because it is the quest for knowledge and that cannot be a bad thing.

Google: Free Speech Guardian?

Check out this fascinating NYT article about Google and their need to have a team of people dedicated to checking content to see what needs to be blocked where to follow different nation's laws. It raises some tough questions about free speech and whether or not Google should or even can be the final filter of web content.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Weekly Music Video

This song has become one of my favorites since I picked up this album a few months ago. It's a dark, moody epic about...well, I'll just let the liner notes tell you.

The Scarecrow is a tragic story of a lonesome creature, emotionally isolated from his environment and suffering from a distorted sensory preception. His feelings for the love of his life unrequited. He sets off on a journey exploring the left-hand path, striving for inner peace, ploughing his way to approval and eventually facing temptation at the inner depths of the human soul...

It's hard finding good videos for European bands especially for long (11+ minutes!) songs, so you'll have to settle for this fan made video which is just a collection of images that the creator thought of while listening to the song. It also has the lyrics for those who have trouble understanding the singer's German accent.

Avantasia - "The Scarecrow"


Avantasia is an awesome symphonic metal band that you really owe it to yourself to check out. I caught an interview with the band's founder, Tobias Sammet (who also started Edguy), where he said that growing up he was a huge fan of classic metal groups like Iron Maiden, but that he also loved the bombast of Queen. With inspiration like that, what's not to like?

EDIT: Don't mind the still image for the video. Yes it's an Iron Maiden album cover, but it's just an image used in the video. Really, it's Avantasia performing "The Scarecrow." Honest.

Weekly Secret



PostSecret

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I have a lot to be thankful, but right now I am most thankful for the monetary aid given to me by the St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation and my co-worker, Brenda Nagel, which has allowed me to pursue custody of my daughters. I don't go to court for a few weeks, yet, and the outcome is, of course, uncertain ("Judges are human" as my lawyer is wont to say) but the fact that I even have this chance is just overwhelming as I wasn't sure I ever would. It is a debt I cannot repay and a definite reminder that there are good, gracious people in this world despite the occasional evidence to the contrary.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Bush Legacy

Joe Klein writes an ode to Bush as his Presidency winds down.

In the end, though, it will not be the creative paralysis that defines Bush. It will be his intellectual laziness, at home and abroad. Bush never understood, or cared about, the delicate balance between freedom and regulation that was necessary to make markets work. He never understood, or cared about, the delicate balance between freedom and equity that was necessary to maintain the strong middle class required for both prosperity and democracy. He never considered the complexities of the cultures he was invading. He never understood that faith, unaccompanied by rigorous skepticism, is a recipe for myopia and foolishness. He is less than President now, and that is appropriate. He was never very much of one.

Putting aside my own biases, I have a hard time imagining anyone making any sort of credible defense of Bush's legacy. Yes, his Presidency isn't officially over, yet and time could be more favorable to him (Harry Truman style), but it is still difficult to figure out what a more favorable picture of Bush would even entail. He did actually have a few decent moments (immigration, AIDS assistance in Africa), but when it came to the big things - the response to 9/11 and terrorism, the conduct of Iraq and Afghanistan, torture, the economy, civil liberties - he has been an unmitigated disaster.

Anyone out there care to make an intellectually credible defense of George W. Bush?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Torture Pardons

A bill has been introduced in the House to prevent the expected preemptive pardons by Bush for crimes his administration has committed. There has been talk that the Obama team is worried about pushing this issue themselves feeling that they would burn political capital and fuel partisan bickering. I understand that, but find it incredibly sad and pathetic, too. What kind of message does it send to people that we won't investigate wrong doings, especially things as grotesque as torture, if it might make some people mad?

If you care about this issue, go here and sign this petition supporting this resolution and send an email or letter to your Congressional representatives asking them to support it, as well. If we the people don't take a stand on this, we have no right to complain in the future when elected officials break the law.

Weekly Music Video

I first heard this song when it first came out while working at Target. It was playing on the TVs in the Electronics section and I was hooked. In a pleasant turn, the entire CD turned out to be great.

David Gray - "Babylon"

Weekly Secret



PostSecret

I bet this church sees a spike in attendance.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bush Administration Has Never Tortured

Yes, that's the new line from the White House. Dana Perino said, "This president has said that we did interrogate terrorists, and we did so to protect the country from possible imminent terrorist attack. We did not torture."

When did the White House change its name to the Ministry of Truth? Oh, I forgot, waterboarding isn't torture anymore. I'll have to make a note of that.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weekly Music Video

Who has not wanted "money for nothing and your chicks for free"?

Dire Straits - "Money for Nothing"

Geek Films - Star Trek and Watchmen

New information is out for two geek films coming out next year. First up - Star Trek.

A new trailer has been released.



I'm not sure what to make of the trailer. I think the film is going to look fantastic no doubt about it. As for the story and the acting, I'm still not sure. I just haven't seen enough to get a good feel for it. Part of that could be my trepidation at the whole project, but we'll see.

For more proof of how good it will look, check out the Enterprise. It's sharp, sleek, and new looking while still being true to the original design. Matt Jeffries would be proud.


Next up - Watchmen.

Another trailer has been released for this flick.



As with Star Trek, I have no doubt that this movie is going to look incredible. In fact, I am more impressed with the visuals for Watchmen than I am with Star Trek because Zak Snyder and crew seem to have managed to bring most of the visual panache of the graphic novel to the screen.

That said, I am also nervous about the script for this. Rumor has it that the ending has been tweaked. Supposedly it still has the same effect, but that the cause has been changed. I don't want to give anything away for those who have not read it (and if you haven't you really should), but suffice to say that any change in the ending risks screwing up everything that came before. We'll see.

I'm trying not to get my hopes up too high for either of these films, but you can bet I will be seeing both in theaters next year. I hope they turn out good enough to make me want to pay to see them multiple times on the big screen.

Weekly Secret

Speaking of medication side effects...



PostSecret

My secret fear with my two daughters is that they will some day be diagnosed with one or both of my diseases. More than the fact that no parent wants their children to be sick, I would feel responsible and I don't know how I would handle that.

Drugs and Side Effects

In the study I am in for my multiple sclerosis, one of the drugs I take is Avonex. It could be a placebo, but the nurse at the clinical coordination site tells me that based on the side-effects, I probably am taking the real deal. And it is those side effects that make me wonder why anyone would take this drug. For about 24-hours after taking the injection, I am down for the count. My body aches. I am more tired than usual. I just have this horrible "blah" feeling and I don't want to do anything except lie down and veg. I'm sure my liver appreciates the 2400-4800 mg of Ibuprofen I take just to be half-way functional for the day.

I have just over another year to go in the study and I have a hard time seeing myself continuing to use Avonex. Other than the cost ($400 per shot), I feel like I lose a day every week. I inject myself a couple of hours before I go to be on Saturday night so that I can sleep through part of it, but Sundays are just shot. I keep asking myself if the drug does enough to slow down the advance of MS in order to make it worthwhile and I just don't know. It's a tricky balance for anyone with a major disease. When do the side-effects of a medication outweigh its benefits?

Right now, I'm not sure that taking Avonex is worth it for me. I've got a year to think about it, though.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Victory for the Bill of Rights. Barely.

The Supreme Court narrowly upholds the Bill of Rights in a 5-4 vote. Whew. That's a close call.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hope

I was a little surprised earlier this week on Election Day when a co-worker seemed to be skirting the issue of politics at lunch. The topic rarely comes up at work which is probably a good thing. Rational discourse on the matter seems to be rare and the last thing anyone needs is hostile sniping over it. Anyway, she said she had been talking with a friend who apparently said something she liked. "Hope is not a plan." A few people nodded and there was some brief discussion about it with most seeming to be in general agreement. I stayed out of it for the most part because I wasn't sure exactly what to say and whether or not it was a veiled swing at Obama. How could it not be being that hope has been one of the centerpoints of his campaign message?

I've been thinking about that idea all week, though. I've heard other people make similar remarks and you know what? They're right, but it's also just as accurate to say, "Cynicism," (or any other attitude) "is not a plan" and I say that as a confirmed cynic. The idea that hope is not a plan is so simplistic as to be pointless. Yes, if someone just sits around hoping for things to change or get better, no one is going to be surprised when they do not. Desire must be married to action in order to achieve results.

But does that mean we should not ever hope? Not ever be optimistic? Of course not. How many people who have achieved great things do you think would say, "Well, when I started this I was pretty sure I wasn't going to do it and I certainly never 'hoped' I could."? Very few, I'm sure. It might not be on the surface, it might be buried deep and there will certainly be moments of doubt, but great things are achieved when someone has the hope that it can be done and the will to go out and do it. If humans never hoped, we would have died out a long time ago.

Bringing this back to Obama, many have accused him of being all fancy rhetoric and no real action. Perhaps. I don't see that, but, perhaps. Maybe those same people could benefit from hoping that they could make things better in some small way and then going out and doing it rather than sitting at home decrying the "kids these days and their fancy-schmancy hope!"

One could hope, anyway.

Weekly Secret



PostSecret

I hope that soon my daughters won't ever have to wonder this.

Weekly Music Video

Alright, I'm on a Poison kick today, so how about a few vids of theirs?

Poison - "Fallen Angel"



"Every Rose Has Its Thorn"



"Talk Dirty to Me"



"Something to Believe In"

Saturday, November 8, 2008

John Williams a Capella

This is one of the coolest videos I have seen in awhile, a one man a capella tribute to Star Wars and John Williams.



Courtesy of GeekDad.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It Gets Better and Better

The more we learn about Sarah Palin, the more appalling her selection as McCain's running mate becomes.



Words fail.

Hat Tip: Sullivan

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama's Victory Speech

Wow. I'm a cynical guy, but he can really move me. I love how he says so little "I," but rather "we" and his call for all Americans to work together and sacrifice. This is exactly the kind of leader we need at this moment.



It sounds cheesy, but he does give me hope and a desire to stand together with my fellow Americans to make our great nation even greater. I have never felt this way about any other politician even those I have liked.

President Obama

Unsurprisingly, Barack Obama has been elected President. I think it is hard to overestimate how powerful a moment this is for America whatever your views on Obama's politics.

Well, I guess not everyone feels that way. McCain's concession speech was very good, but the crowd was very ugly. Some people just have no class.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The End is Near

It's almost hard to imagine that tomorrow the Presidential campaign is over. It's been going on for what, five or six years now? Actually, Obama announced his candidacy on February 10 of last year and McCain announced his bid a couple of months later. Still, even for a political junkie like me, it seems that this campaign has been going on for a long, long time and taking place in a galaxy...oh, never mind.

Anyway, it seems virtually impossible for McCain to squeeze out a victory tomorrow, so we can probably expect to inaugurate our first black President. While that is certainly not a reason to vote for Obama, I think it can be said to be a good thing for our country. Much of the world and indeed even much of our own country is not white. Having a leader that is not will help our image in the world and give black kids someone to look up to that looks like them and is not a rap artist or athlete.

I almost feel sorry for Obama, though. Would you want to be taking over our country in a time like this? John Stewart asked Obama about this. Of course Obama gave a standard political answer, but you've got to wonder if he doesn't lay in bed at night thinking to himself, "Damn it! Why now?"

The hardest part for the Democrats will be the fact that they are now going to own the problems America faces - the economy, Iraq, Afghanistan, al-Qaeda, and so on. It's not going to matter much how we got here if they can't get us out of it. Obama's leadership will be tested from day one. I have more faith in his leadership than I do the Congressional Democratic leadership to be sure.

Well, whatever happens tomorrow, the Presidential campaign is over (you hear that, Florida? No hanging chads!) and I think that's something we can all be happy about.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Urkel Effect?

Joel Stein is concerned.

I am, however, deeply worried about the Urkel effect, which holds that voters leaning toward Obama will walk into the voting booth and suddenly think, I cannot take four years of listening to that giant-eared nerd. Because people are starting to realize that Obama is not all that cool. He's earnest like C-3PO, emotionless like Spock, overly practical like Encyclopedia Brown and incredibly skinny like C-3PO, Spock and Encyclopedia Brown.

Obama seemed cool at first because he uses slang, dresses well and bumps fists. But a lifetime of dangerous undercover work makes it easy for me to spot a fellow nerd. Obama has done a good job passing, with his nice suits, easy smile and attractive wife. But those are just the over-30 nerd trappings of success. Have you seen him try to dance? It's like watching a white guy make fun of other white guys. Sure, he played high school basketball, but how many cool kids play indoor sports in Hawaii? The man is all superego. He never gets angry or flirts with hot chicks by asking them to be his Vice President. Obama has written about using pot and cocaine, but a New York Times article found only school buddies who said he merely dabbled with marijuana. That's because the only people who bring up their drug use didn't really do drugs. Try asking George W. Bush about alleged cocaine use. You'll see how the nonnerds play it.

And my favorite part.
Former TIME reporter Benjamin Nugent, author of American Nerd: The Story of My People, is also worried about the Urkel effect, though he thinks Obama is less nerd than nerd-adjacent. These are the types of terms you have to endure when talking to the author of American Nerd: The Story of My People. "He would be the guy the jocks didn't choose to towel-snap, but he would kind of stand there looking disapproving while they towel-snapped. Whereas McCain would be more likely to towel-snap you, and Sarah Palin would make out with the guy who towel-snapped you," he says.

I'm adding American Nerd to my list of books to read. And praying that the Urkel effect does not come into play on Tuesday. We nerds do not need another setback.

Weekly Music Video

I love this song, but I often wonder how many people listening to it know who Buddy Holly or Mary Tyler Moore are?

Weezer - "Buddy Holly"


Montana in the News

You know it's a strange election when Republicans are worried about Montana. CNN has changed Montana's status from "Leaning McCain" to "Toss Up." Clinton in '92 was the last Democratic Presidential candidate we voted for. It will be interesting to see how it turns out. If we do flip for Obama, he can Ron Paul who is stealing a substantial minority of votes from McCain.

Weekly Secret



PostSecret

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Assisted Suicide

A UK woman asked the court to clarify the law on assisted suicide, but was denied. She has multiple sclerosis and says that if her condition get worse, she wants to travel to Switzerland to end her life, but does not want her husband to face prosecution.



Having MS myself, I sympathize with this woman's condition. I have no physical debilities, yet, but the knowledge that someday I will is always lurking in the back of my mind. However, I do not think that just because life gets hard, we should end it. If the only thing keeping you alive is a machine, then I don't think it is a problem to pull the plug. That is not morally objectionable. But deliberately taking steps to end your life because you are in pain or are physically incapacitated is not something I condone.

That said, I think laws against suicide are stupid. Laws against assisted suicide are another matter, though. That should definitely not be legal. I believe that life is precious, all life. If my mother or my daughters or anyone I dearly love suffered from chronic pain or any sort of serious incurable illness, I would do everything in my power to comfort them and be there for them during their time of need. I would not help them commit suicide, however. As much as I would want their pain to end, it is not my choice to make for when that end comes. That decision is above my pay grade.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Happy Birthday

Happy 30th birthday to my good friend, Jeromy. It's hard to believe that we've been friends for twenty years now. Twenty years. Where does the time go? Happy birthday, Jeromy. I look forward to twenty more years of friendship.


Jeromy holding his son, Matthew, on a camping trip near Red Lodge this past summer.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Truth Comes Out

Ta-Nehisi Coates over at The Atlantic has discovered the truth about Obama.

Think on it. Here is a black man who is evidently securing the votes of white people who don't like black people, who attracts massive crowds, and makes people faint at his rallies. Clearly he's using some Cerebro-like device to magnify his telepathic abilities. Commenters have noted that they just don't feel like they know Obama, and that's because they don't. Obama isn't just poised to lead Democrats to a victory--he's poised to do something that would bend the fabric of space-time, shaking the very foundations of the pundit-verse. There is only one explanation for all of this--Mutant Powers.

What does that make McCain? William Stryker?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Weekly Secret



PostSecret

This secret brings to mind an article I read awhile back about abortion. A doctor who performed abortions was writing about the people he had met who he would see picketing outside the clinic one day and then another day would be in themselves or bringing a daughter. The dissonance was striking.

For me, though, I think we just need to keep some compassion in mind when dealing with other people. Screaming at someone and calling them a baby killer is going to be less productive than sitting down and trying to empathize with them. Most of the people going in to get an abortion are not serial abortionists using the procedure as a form of birth control. They are someone who made a mistake and are scared, unsure what to do. If someone was to take the time to talk to them and hear their story, they would probably be better able to talk the person out of their abortion.

Fighting for Custody

Well, after many months of preparation, the brief and affidavit to gain custody of my daughters was filed on Friday. I am very excited that the time is finally here, but nervous, as well. The next couple of months will be very trying emotionally, especially for my daughters, but I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't think it was the right thing to do for them. They are in a bad situation at home and I can't sit by any longer. For their sakes, I have to act.

None of this would have been possible without the help of some very generous people. A co-worker and good friend of mine, Brenda Nagel, and the St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation very generously provided me the money necessary to hire a lawyer. Without their incredible generosity it is likely that I would not have been able to do this. I will be eternally grateful to them forever. Whether or not I win my case, they gave me the opportunity. People like them remind me that there is still some good in this world. Thank you.

Weekly Music Video

If you like prog metal it doesn't get much better than Dream Theater. These guys are just amazing technically. Check out this 27 minute video of one of my favorite songs of theirs.

Dream Theater - "Octavarium"

Thursday, October 23, 2008

United We Stand

I think you have to be pretty cold and cynical to not be at least a little moved by this.



He's the best political speaker in the country right now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Two Years

It was two years ago today that my good friend, Patrick, died in a car accident. He was a police officer responding to the scene of an accident when he lost control of his patrol vehicle on the ice. It flipped and crushed him. He died on scene almost instantly.

Patrick was perhaps the nicest person I have ever known. It sounds like such a cliche, but he truly went out of his way to help people even when it inconvenienced him. We shared a love of fantasy books and role-playing. I have many fond memories of gaming with him and discussing the books we so loved. It's still hard sometimes to realize that he is gone. His name is still in my email address book and so many little things spark memories of him, not the least of which is his daughter, my niece, Alexis.

I had dinner with his parents and sister tonight, as well as my sister, Shawna, and Alexis. We had a good time sharing memories and just being together. I admit I got teary when I looked through the scrap book his mother put together for the trip they took to Washington D.C. for the Fallen Officer's Memorial Service.

Patrick, you were too good for this crummy world. Peace be with you in your new life. I think about you all of the time and I promise I will do everything I can to help look out for your daughter. It's certainly the least I can do for a friend.

Monday, October 20, 2008

High Cholesterol

I recently got the lab results back from my most recent visit to the doctor. My A1C is still good - between 5 and 6. I wasn't worried about that test. The one I was less sure about was my cholesterol level. Three months ago, my LDL level was 81. If I was "normal" (not diabetic), that would be great as the goal is to be under 100. My doctor said, however, that I should be under 70. He recommended I get more exercise and eat more grains. Well, I typically eat a fairly well-balanced diet already so that meant getting more exercise. Did I? Uh, no. It's hard when you are busy to make time for a regular exercise regimen. I do try to do little things like taking the stairs, parking farther away when going to the story, and going for walks and such with my daughters. I did not think that it would be enough to bring my LDL level as much as it did, but it did. I still should get more exercise than I do, but at least my cholesterol is down.

Ideological Divide - Congress vs. the People

Courtesy of Matt Yglesias comes this fascinating graph comparing the ideological position of the American people to both houses of Congress.



I think this highlights the frustration people often have with Congress. As you can see, members of Congress are more extreme, left and right, than the typical American. This stems from those on the left appealing to the full spectrum of those on the left and vice versa on the right. Because Congress is more polarized, it is harder for either side to move to the middle to compromise on issues.

Unfortunately there seems to be little to be done about this with our current political set-up. Democrats are not going to get elected if they don't appeal to a majority of the left. Republicans are not going to get elected if they don't gain the support of a majority of those on the right. Those that do try to move to the center often become outcasts of their own party and so struggle to accomplish much.

Much of this could probably be alleviated if we did not have such a strongly bifurcated political system, but it is so entrenched that it is hard to see it changing anytime soon.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Racism in America, Cont.

It is perhaps foolhardy to wonder about the thought process behind something like this, but I can't help myself. Does this guy think that somebody seeing Obama hung in effigy is going to stop and say to themselves, "You know, I was going to vote for Obama, but seeing his effigy hanging there, I have come to realize the error of my ways. How could I be foolish enough to want to vote for a black man when we should be hanging them from trees."



Of course there is no logic in things like this. More likely this guy is just an attention whore.

Weekly Music Video

I'll forever associate this piece with my father who played it on his guitar frequently while I was young. It evokes many happy memories.

Ludwig van Beethoven - Bagatelle in A minor WoO 59, "Fur Elise" as performed by Atsuko Seta

Weekly Secret



PostSecret

Saturday, October 18, 2008

New Star Trek Pics

Paramount has released some new pictures from the forthcoming Star Trek 11.







I think there is no doubt the movie is going to look fantastic, but I'm still nervous about everything else. Especially when I read this new interview with director J.J. Abrams. Here is an excerpt that troubles me.

Plus, at heart, Abrams is still more of a Star Wars guy. ''All my smart friends liked Star Trek,'' he says. ''I preferred a more visceral experience.'' Which is exactly why he accepted Paramount's offer in 2005 to develop a new Trek flick; creatively, he was engaged by the possibility of a Star Trek movie ''that grabbed me the way Star Wars did.'' That meant a bigger budget and better special effects than any previous Trek film, plus freedom to reinvent the mythos as needed. ''We have worldwide aspirations and we need to broaden [Trek's] appeal,'' says Weston. ''Doing the half-assed version of this thing wasn't going to work.''

The best of Trek - "City on the Edge of Forever," "Devil in the Dark," "Amok Time" - was at its best precisely because it engaged the viewer's head. That was its appeal. Of course there were great action packed episodes, too, and The Wrath of Khan amongst the movies to give Trek some rousing excitement, but it was not the heart of the show. It was icing on the cake. The writers of the new movie claim to be fans of the original series, but if Abrams takes the new movie too far away from what made the series great in order to offer a more "visceral experience," then he is going to disappoint a lot of people.

Of course, maybe that's what he wants. After all, The Voyage Home (non-fans know it as "the one with the whales") is the largest grossing Trek film to date. Most fans of the show, including me, do not find it to be the best of the films because of the forced humor. But that humor helped it find a larger audience. If only the studios were more concerned with making quality films instead of films that make lots of money, but that's another rant.

Oh, and for the record, I am also a huge fan of Star Wars

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Racism in America

Because we nominated a black person for President and he will in all likelihood win, that means racism is dead in America, right? We can all hold hands and sing Kum-Bah-Yah.

Right?

Or not.

Sigh.

H/T: Ta-Nehisi Coates

President Palin

Ha ha ha.

H/T:Andrew Sullivan

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blissful Ignorance

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised given my cynical nature. The egregious ignorance on display, though, was enough to shock me a bit.

In my Intro to the Study of Religion class (which I had to retake because the credits in this class didn't transfer *grumble*) last week, the assigned reading dealt with religious splits, sects, and cults. During the course of discussions on the message boards, two students demonstrated their incredible lack of comprehension. In their first posts, both indicated their firm Christian convictions right off the bat and then basically condemned all other religions and those Christian denominations which are not the right ones. One equated Buddhists and Jehovah's Witnesses with the KKK. The other called both Catholicism and Hinduism cults, and not in the sense that all religions can be called cults but in the sense of something bad-nasty.

I probably would not have been so shocked to hear this from a "man on the street." This was in a class, though, a non-denominational class about studying all religions. I can't understand why someone so zealous in their faith would even bother taking a class like this that doesn't take sides or condemn any religion, but rather neutrally examines them. Wouldn't someone like that be happier going to Sunday school where their narrow beliefs won't be challenged and rigorous thinking won't be on the schedule?

"Why, yes, Johnnie. God did make the world in just six days and everyone who doesn't believe that is going to burn in Hell. Okay class, let's sing 'Jesus Loves Me.'"

I rather harshly excoriated both of them and the professor stepped in to tell us (well, me) to cool down. I have a hard time letting stupidity like that slide, though. The older I get, the more likely I am to call people on their bullshit. Somebody needs to.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Cash for Grades

Courtesy of GeekDad comes a story of another school district (Washington D.C.) paying their students for good grades and behavior. I understand the motivation behind this. Money is a powerful motivator. Look at what we are doing with many of the militias in Iraq. Still, I think it is a bad idea. The children aren't going to strive for good grades for the sake of good grades; they are going to strive for good grades for the money.

Now I know I can be altruistic when it comes to things like education. I love learning for the sake of learning, but I realize that I am in the minority. Still, I think we can find better ways of motivating children, things like more individually geared curriculums so that students spend more time on things that appeal to them. Not every kid needs to go through algebra or multiple years of literature as much as we would like to think they should. Tweak the classrooms to the individual and not the group. Have more intangible rewards like field trips or a longer recess.

Money is too easy and ultimately teaches a bad lesson. Don't do sometime unless you are getting paid. Is that what we want our kids to grow up learning?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Unpatriotic

Watch this clip of Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) claiming that being critical of the President and American policy is not patriotic.

This is wrong on so many levels, it's not even funny. One of the great things about America is that is our freedom to stand up and be critical of the government. Patriotism is not mindless acceptance of what our leaders tell us. It is standing up and asking "why?". It is telling our leaders that they are accountable to the American people and that it is their job to explain to us what they are doing for our interests. And if we do not like the answers we get, it is our job to say so. Not quietly to ourselves, but to everyone we know. Of course the person being critical has the responsibility to back up their claims with facts, however, that does not take away from the fact that capitulating to authority simply because they are authority is not patriotic. It is fascist.

H/T: Yglesias

Weekly Music Video

Elis is a great gothic metal band from Germany. Sadly their lead singer, Sabine Dunser, died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 29 before the release of the group's last album, Griefshire. Her voice was very light and angelic, but powerful. Her parts had been recorded for the album and it was released, but no one is going to truly replace her in the band.

Elis - "Show Me the Way"

Weekly Secret



PostSecret

I'm Baaack

Two weeks. Three weeks. Who's counting? Anyway, it's high time I got back to writing around here. I'm still swamped with school, so don't expect a frenetic pace. For my own sanity, though, I need the occasional break from writing "serious" papers, so here I am.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

An Intarwebs Hiatus

I haven't been posting much on here over the past week 'cause I've been swamped with work and school and all kinds of other things. And I'm not really getting caught up, especially with school, so I'm going to take a two-week break from the 'net. It's so easy to get distracted reading blogs and the news and funny stuff that hours pass and I get mad at myself for not getting "important" things done (like the eight page paper on the Muslim Brotherhood due next Sunday that I really haven't started).

So, I am going to step away from the internet for a few weeks. I'll still check email and I have to get on for my schoolwork, but don't expect me to be posting around here. Check out some of the blogs in the blog roll on the right-side of the page if you're looking for something to entertain you.

I'll see you in a few.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today is my mother's birthday. She is one of the strongest, toughest, and smartest women I know and I owe so much to her. When my road has been rocky, she has always been there to support me and guide me. I wouldn't be half the person I am today without her.

She claims to feel old sometimes, but no one would ever know at least based on the number of people that think she is my wife or sister when we are out. Perhaps she made a pact with Satan?

Here she is with all of her grandchildren this summer.

Thank you, Mom, for everything. I love you.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Weekly Music Video

In honor of Metallica's newest album just released, Death Magnetic, here is the video for their first single, "The Day That Never Comes." I must say that the album rocks and most definitely hearkens back to the Metallica of the 80s with killer guitar riffs, numerous time changes, and just unrelenting metal.

Anyway, without further ado...Metallica - "The Day That Never Comes."

Weekly Secret



PostSecret

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Chill Out

Another chuckle I got this week, this one courtesy of new Atlantic blogger, Ta-Nehisi Coates.

A good reminder that there were many doubts about Obama's ability to defeat the Clintons, but he did it. I'm confident that McCain/Palin will not win in November. Mostly.

TV Evangelist Humor

This video, courtesy of Internet Monk, is one of the funniest things I have seen in a long time. I laughed so hard I was crying.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Honesty About Torture

In the comments of a recent post, I said:

Andrew Sullivan has been pushing on his blog for someone to ask Bush if what happened to McCain was torture. I would love to see the President try to dance around with that one.

to which commenter Kyle replied:
his reply would be painfully easy and would yield far to many head-nods.
"9-11 changed everything"
i would actually fear someone posing that question to the president as im sure it would only solidify the need for me to swear off (after swearing at) politics and take up stamp collecting.

I would welcome that answer however repugnant I may find it. If the Bush Administration and its supporters truly believe that 9/11 changed everything, then they should be up front about it. Tell the American people, "We believe that in order to protect you and keep you safe, we must resort to such things as torture." At least then we could have an honest debate about that instead of dancing around the issue. Of course I also understand that Bush and his cronies believe that 9/11 has also given the Executive Branch carte blanche to do whatever it feels like without having to tell anyone and that they have no interest in debating anything. The point is, though, that most of the supporters of Bush policies have not been intellectually honest enough to truly state where they stand. Instead we hear about things like enhanced interrogation techniques.

I'm tired of cowards who try to take a stand on an issue while trying not to look like that's where they really stand. Call a spade a spade. If you support torture, then, damn it, come out and say it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Metallica is Back

Their new CD, Death Magnetic, comes out on Friday. Three tracks are already available on iTunes which I have downloaded. They are definitely closer in tone to their pre-Black Album material which just...rocks. Here's a brief story from CNN about it.



Raise the horns, baby.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Wikipedia Writers

Ever since Wikipedia's debut, I have been fascinated with it. I think it's a great starting point for information on an incredible number of subjects with over 2.5 million articles. So, who's doing all of that writing, you ask? Well, here's an article that asks just that question.

Incidentally, I do have a Wikipedia account. I've made a dozen or so edits, mostly fixing grammar and spelling, but occasionally fixing some graffiti. Hey, if I'm going to use it, I may as well contribute.

Weekly Music Video

This one's for my daughters who have been stuck on this song lately.

Murray Head - "One Night in Bangkok"

Weekly Secret



PostSecret

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The US Attorney Scandal

While the story has all but disappeared from most media outlets, the investigation into the potentially politically motivated firing of nine U.S. Attorneys continues.

Before the court of public opinion, White House spokespeople have long maintained President Bush had no involvement in the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys, the central decision that mushroomed into one of the biggest scandals in eight years of the Bush administration.

"[T]here is no indication that the President knew about any of the ongoing discussions [about firing U.S. attorneys] over the two years, nor did he see a list or a plan before it was carried out," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters in March 2007.

In federal court, however, the administration's lawyers have been more ambiguous.

"The record does reflect at this stage that the president was not involved in decisions about who would be asked to resign from the department," Justice Department lawyer Carl Nichols carefully argued before a federal judge in June. But "the record does not reflect that the President had no future involvement" in the scandal, he noted.

Just how much of a role the president played in the firings and its aftermath remains unclear. But in trying to prevent top White House officials from testifying or turning over documents to Congress, the Bush administration "is very consciously trying to walk a very fine tightrope," explained Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at American University in Washington, D.C.

On the one hand, experts say, the White House finds it politically necessary to make clear statements insulating Bush from the scandal. But in court, "If they said [Bush] wasn't involved at all they would undermine their case for executive privilege," Vladeck said.

The resulting argument, he said, is "a lawyer who's trying to be very obtuse."

Still, the administration lawyers' fancy footwork hints that the president's involvement could be broader than widely known. "They are not expressly saying it but it is an implicaton because you can't mislead the court," said Charles Tiefer, former House general counsel now a law professor at the University of Baltimore.


The sad thing is that by the time anyone figures out what happened, the people who need to be punished will all be out of office, sitting around at home, drinking beer, and laughing at what they got away with. I wish the Democrats were pursuing things like this a little more seriously instead of being more concerned with winning their next election (not the Presidential contest, but their own individual reelection). That's politics, though, I suppose.

John McCain's Hollow Call for Bipartisianship

McCain's acceptance speech, other than leaving me rolling my eyes at the repeating of the POW story (who knew?), actually shocked me a little with his call for bipartisanship and reaching across the aisle. Really? After the previous night's speeches? The abrasive, condescending rhetoric from Guiliani, Romney, and Palin was disgusting. There was no policy proposals, no discussion of the Republican brand (other than "cut taxes" and "attack terrorists"), instead it was a lot of bashing of the Democrats and Obama. I mean, come on. Mocking him for being a community organizer. Really? Thrice-married, friend-of-gays Guiliani making the crack about Sarah Palin's town, Wasila, not being "cosmopolitan" enough for Obama. Of course, perhaps the most ridiculous comment if one can be chosen amongst the many was Guiliani saying Obama's story could only happen in America, but saying it as if that was a bad thing.

After all that, it defied comprehension for McCain to take the stage and say he wanted to work with Independents and Democrats. Yeah, sure you do, buddy. Most of us are seeing through your very transparent, say and do anything for power routine. Of course most politicians want power; that's why they are in the business they are. They at least try to put on modest airs, though. McCain is not as his very pick of Sarah Palin shows.

Isn't Racism Grand?

Need one more reason to loath the PUMA crowd? How about them putting together a mocking the Obamas which includes people in black face. I wonder if they honestly think that garbage like this will help their cause.

"Hey, Bob, didja catch that new PUMA vid?"
"Naw, not yet. Any good?"
"Hell, yeah! I was actually considerin' ta vote for that uppity Obama. Those actors in blackface learned me just how ridiculous the whole notion of a black President is, you know what I'm sayin'?"
"I hear ya man. I'm gonna have ta check it out."
"Do it. It's eye-openin'."

Sadly, it probably will have that affect on some people.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Enought About Being a POW!

I can't be the only one sick of hearing about the fact that John McCain was a POW. By making it a political tool, McCain has cheapened his experience instead of treating it with the quiet dignity a true hero would.

Obama Wants to Help the Terrorists

Palin may be a Washington outsider, but she's sure picked up quickly on the culture of fear. She tells us that Obama wants to talk to foreign leaders pursuing nuclear weapons and give terrorists rights. Somehow this is going to make us less safe, so we better vote for McCain. He'll get us into lots of fights to keep us safe.

Personally, I am sick of politicians trying to scare me into voting for them.

That Bridge to Nowhere

How many times is Sarah Palin going to tell us that she was against the Bridge to Nowhere before someone calls her on the fact that she used to be for it?

Irony

Listening to Guiliani's speech, I'm really struck by the irony of Republicans trying to attack the Democrats for wanting to increase the size of government. Because Bush has been, you know, so fiscally responsible.

Ouch

Jack Cafferty has some harsh words for the Republicans.

This week the Republicans gather for their convention. For four days, they will labor under the illusion their party is still relevant. It's not.

Indeed.

Vote For Him Because He's a Vet

I should be doing homework, but I found myself tuning into the Republican Convention in time to watch Mike Huckabee's speech. Very underwhelming. It boiled down to "McCain is a veteran so he deserves your vote." I'm not sure of the logic behind that, but what the hell do I know?

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Third Party

Commenter Kyle said:

my prediction is that we'll see a split something like this:
48% dems
42% rep
10% 3rd party
i know that is unusual, but thats where i'm putting my money.
the republicans lost a heck of a lot of votes that wont go over to the dems, while the dems havent lost much of their base. part of my prediction is wishful thinking in that i would love to see the 3rd party draw 10% or more and have that be the start of a massive shift in the the way the american public and the media handle future elections. wishful thinking.

I agree that a viable third party would be of enormous benefit to American politics. As it stands now, it is too easy to say, "We're the good guys. They're the bad guys." A third party, especially one that was somewhat in the middle of the Democrats and Republicans not in a wishy-washy way, but in a way that took some of the ideologies of both parties, would be able to blunt some of that. It would also allow interesting coalitions to develop on issues instead of the usual, "That legislation came from the Bad Party so I oppose it on principle no matter what it might say."

I don't see it happening, though. The Democrats and the GOP are just so big and so entrenched that it would nearly take an act of God to bring one of them down. Just look at how many people still support the Republicans after the last eight years.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Is She the Mother?

Tabloid stuff maybe, but the question of whether or not Sarah Palin is the mother or grandmother of her most recent child has come up. Of course, she could easily clear this up by releasing her medical records.

But Alaska is Close to Russia

According to Cindy McCain, Sarah Palin has foreign policy experience because Alaska is close to Russia.



Seriously.

Sullivan and Yglesias both comment. You'd think that this line of reasoning would lead to acknowledging Obama's foreign policy experience since he lived in Indonesia for four years when he was a child, but of course it has not. Perhaps you can't live in foreign countries to get experience, you can only live near foreign countries to garner such valuable insight. If only Obama had known, he could have gone to Alaska after law school instead of Chicago.

Weekly Music Video

I am a huge fan of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Their album, Beethoven's Last Night, is one of my favorites. Here they are playing a piece from that album.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - "Requiem the Fifth"

Weekly Secret



PostSecret

He Picked Who?

Of course anyone near a media outlet of any kind now knows that John McCain has chosen his running mate, Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska. No doubt like nearly everyone else, you also went, "Who?"

My very fist thought on hearing McCain's choice was that he was courting the female vote, especially disaffected Hillary voters (the ridiculous PUMAs.) After the Hillary ads he ran, this was blatantly obvious. It also seems ludicrous to believe that this would work. The Hillary voters who have shown reluctance to support Obama are not doing so merely because Obama is not a woman; it is because Obama is not their woman. They wanted Hillary in the White House, not any random female running for office. Polls are also bearing this out, showing that women are more skeptical of men in Palin.

As I read more about Palin, the second reason for McCain's choice shined through. She is supposed to shore up his support amongst evangelicals. Palin believes intelligent design should be taught in schools and is staunchly pro-life.

The reaction to Palin has been interesting and often amusing to read, running the full gamut of thought. Andrew Sullivan wrote, "McCain has just told us how seriously he takes the war we are in. Not seriously at all." Rod Dreher was giddy over the fact that she home schools her kids. I didn't realize that was a sign of a good VP, but I guess when you're playing the identity politics game it must be. *shrug*

I think this is going to be a disaster for McCain in the end. His blatant pandering is going to turn off a lot of voters and seal his defeat.

Friday, August 29, 2008

History is Made

My daughters and I watched a historic moment last night. Here is a video of Obama's speech.



This was not the speech I expected, but I thought it was fantastic. He came out swinging hard against McCain and the Republicans while weaving some of his airier hope themes throughout and even laying out quite a few policy objectives. Anyone doubting that he is ready to be C-in-C after this speech should be assuaged.

Of course, many on the right were not so enamored. But that is not surprising at all; Obama is very liberal in policy if not in temperament. He talks about compromise and bipartisanship, but that doesn't mean he's a middle of the road guy. He is a liberal.

But after the last eight disastrous years, I don't see how the Republicans can expect the American people to give them another chance. And I don't see how McCain and the Republicans can top the oratory in the Democratic convention. I don't expect a blowout in November, but after Obama's speech, I don't know how he can win.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Quote of the Night

Bill Clinton went a long way toward redeeming his image with tonight's speech. He buried his narcissism for a moment and surprisingly talked more about Obama than how great his record was. It started off a little slow, but by the end, he had nailed it. My favorite bit was:

People around the world have always been more impressed by the power of our example than the example of our power.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Unfortunately, most Republicans and especially the neocons seem to have no grasp of that. They would rather smash any potential opposition with our military.

I'll also echo the chorus in praising John Kerry's speech. He was excellent, much better than anything he did four years ago.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Against Air Conditioning

It's two-years old, but this Will Saletan piece criticizing our overuse of AC is still quite good.

All over the country, power consumption is breaking records, and air conditioning is a huge reason why. We use about one-sixth of our electricity to cool ourselves. That's more than the total electricity consumption of India, a country whose population exceeds 1 billion. To get the electricity, we burn oil and coal. We also run air conditioners in our cars, which reduces urban fuel efficiency by up to four miles per gallon, at an annual cost of 7 billion gallons of gasoline.

More burning of oil and coal means more greenhouse gases. Based on government data, Stan Cox, a scientist at the Land Institute, calculates that air-conditioning the average U.S. home requires 3,400 pounds of carbon-dioxide production per year. The effects of this are particularly bad at night. Over the last five summers, very high minimum daily temperatures—those that score in the top 10 percent historically—have been far more widespread in this country than during any other five-year period. This is what's killing people. Outdoor air used to cool at night, allowing us to recover from the day's heat. Now it doesn't. To fuel our own air conditioning, we're destroying nature's.


I think this only one piece of our growing hubris as a species. We constantly try to avoid anything difficult like taking a pill to lose weight without worrying about long-term consequences. We live in the moment. If it feels good right now, then do it. Unfortunately, this typically does not have good consequences (see: the current credit crisis). We as a society need to do some serious self-examination and ask ourselves, "What do we truly value?"

Monday, August 25, 2008

What is a Good Blog?

A blogger makes a list of what he thinks good blog. Not a bad list. I agree with some of it, disagree with others. I'll just say that I've learned in my time blogging (just over a year) that it requires a lot of work. Being relevant requires a lot of reading, a lot of thought processing, a lot of half-starts and rewriting. It would certainly be easier if I didn't have a full-time job. Getting paid to blog full-time would be nice. I do enjoy it, however, and it has been rewarding for me in that it helps me process my own thoughts.

California Sends a Message

The California State Legislature passed a resolution allowing health professionals to be prosecuted if they participate in interrogations that violate "international standards."

Senate Joint Resolution 19 instructs the state’s licensing boards to inform California doctors, psychologists and other health professionals of their obligations under national and international law relating to torture. The boards will warn the licensees that they may one day be subject to prosecution if they participate in interrogations that do not conform to international standards of treatment of prisoners.

“The resolution calls attention to the intolerable dilemma that torture presents when those who are supposed to be the healers in our society are involved in the abuse of prisoners,” said Eisha Mason, associate regional director for the American Friends Service Committee, one of the organizations that sponsored the resolution.

State Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) introduced the resolution in response to evidence that – despite the medical oath to “first, do no harm” – some physicians, psychologists and other health personnel have been complicit in abusive interrogations of detainees by the military and the Central Intelligence Agency.

This part was rather alarming.
A survey of medical students conducted by the Harvard Medical School, published in the October, 2007 issue of the International Journal of Health Services, found that one-third of the respondents did not know that under the Geneva Conventions, they should refrain from participating in coercive interrogations.

Thank you, California. Now, who else is going to get on the bandwagon? It's going to take more than one state to stop these practices. Don't just sit there. Write your representatives. Talk to your neighbors, co-workers, family, and friends. If we want this to stop, we need to stand up and make our voices heard.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Who Doesn't Love Jon Stewart?

He is one of the most trusted (fake) journalists in America.

Though this spot is the program’s mocking sendup of itself and the news media’s mania for self-promotion, it inadvertently gets at one very real truth: the emergence of “The Daily Show” as a genuine cultural and political force. When Americans were asked in a 2007 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press to name the journalist they most admired, Mr. Stewart, the fake news anchor, came in at No. 4, tied with the real news anchors Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw of NBC, Dan Rather of CBS and Anderson Cooper of CNN. And a study this year from the center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism concluded that “ ‘The Daily Show’ is clearly impacting American dialogue” and “getting people to think critically about the public square.”

I am a huge fan of The Daily Show. Not being tied down to a 24-hour news cycle, asking tough questions on serious issues, and the obviousness of Jon's heart behind his biting humor serves to make The Daily Show one of the best programs on TV. You can probably learn more about what's going on in the world than by watching any other program.

Here's a great clip from a recent show where Jon takes a look at the John Edwards affair, the Russia/Georgia conflict, and Bush's gold medal in "lack of self-awareness."

"You've Got a Helluva Lot to Learn About Rock and Roll!"

Apparently "Guitar Hero" is responsible for "saving" rock and roll.

A few years ago, rock music was struggling on the charts. With hip-hop and teen pop ruling, rock was finding it hard to break through with new music -- or sell more of the old.

But "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band" have prompted kids born in the '90s to discover artists from the '70s and '80s such as Aerosmith, Twisted Sister and Pat Benatar. The games' amazing popularity -- last year, the two brought in more than $935 million in revenue, according to the NPD Group market research company -- has helped create success in other markets, according to observers.

Parents, what is wrong with you?! You shouldn't need video games to teach your kids about the awesomeness that is rock 'n' roll. Sure, my daughters listen to Hannah Montana, but they also listen to Queen, Meat Loaf, Evanescence, Guns 'n Roses, and Nightwish. Damn it, they're gonna know what good music is and I don't need no stinkin' video game to do it for me. Stop abdicating your duties, parents, and instill in your children a love of the finer things in life.

Like Led freakin' Zeppelin!

A Republican Bows Out

Susan Eisenhower quits the Republican Party and has some harsh words for them.

My decision came at the end of last week when it was demonstrated to the nation that McCain and this Bush White House have learned little in the last five years. They mishandled what became a crisis in the Caucusus, and this has undermined U.S. national security. At the same time, the McCain camp appears to be comfortable with running an unworthy Karl Rove–style political campaign. Will the McCain operation, and its sponsors, do anything to win?
...
As an independent I want to be free of the constraints and burdens that have come with trying to make my own views explainable in the context of today’s party. Hijacked by a relatively small few, the GOP of today bears no resemblance to Lincoln, Roosevelt or Eisenhower’s party, or many of the other Republican administrations that came after. In my grandparents’ time, the thrust of the party was rooted in: a respect for the constitution; the defense of civil liberties; a commitment to fiscal responsibility; the pursuit and stewardship of America’s interests abroad; the use of multilateral international engagement and “soft power”; the advancement of civil rights; investment in infrastructure; environmental stewardship; the promotion of science and its discoveries; and a philosophical approach focused squarely on the future.

Ouch. I think true conservatives should probably be hoping for a Democratic victory in the Presidential race and big gains in Congress. The Republican party has shifted wildly off course and needs to be smacked down - hard - so they can come to their senses and become the party they once were.

H/T: Andrew Sullivan

Sick 'Em, Biden!

As everyone knows, Obama has selected Joe Biden as his running mate. I think this is a good pick for Obama. Not because Biden has solid foreign policy cred and can possibly connect to working class voters, but because he is a fierce debater who speaks his mind. Granted, his mouth has landed him in trouble before, but I think he's the perfect guy to go to the mat against the Republican/Karl Rove slime machine. Biden is not one to take any hits sitting down; he'll get right back up and hit back hard. Obama has talked a lot about moving beyond this kind of politics, but unfortunately that's hard to do when you're the only one wanting to do that. With Biden on the ticket, though, Obama can focus on his strengths - big speeches and staying cool - while letting Biden get his hands dirty.

I think it's a big win for Obama and the Dems. McCain is going to have to become a lot craftier now with his negative ads. Biden will tear him up if he doesn't.

McCain Keeps Going Lower

The McCain campaign has released a new ad that wonders why Hillary Clinton is not Obama's VP pick. I like McCain less and less as this campaign goes on. Between bringing up his time as a POW no matter what the question is, his black and white view of foreign policy, and now his low-blow campaigning, I'm getting really fed up with him.

Weekly Music Video

I'm not a huge Sublime fan, but this song is incredible.

Sublime - "Santeria"

Weekly Secret



PostSecret

Friday, August 22, 2008

Birthday Treaty

You know, I could see Bush falling for something like this.

Obama's Veep?

Could it be Joe Biden or is Obama going to surprise us?

Kevin Smith Likes Watchmen

Kevin Smith has given the forthcoming Watchmen movie based on the graphic novel high praise. He said, in fact, that

It's fucking astounding.

This is good to hear, but I'm still skeptical, especially since Snyder is still working on cutting down the runtime to satisfy the studio. After seeing the trailer and reading this, I'm more optimistic than I used to be, but I'm still not holding my breath. The graphic novel is just too good and dense to be easily translated to the screen. We'll see, though.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Future of Books

The Electronic Frontier Foundation asks, What happens if the Kindle succeeds?"

Skeptics should remember that it wasn't long ago that many predicted that CDs would never replace vinyl, and later that MP3s would never replace CDs. You can still find great record stores that specialize in vinyl, but the trend towards digital music has been steady and unstoppable. And the music industry has paid a huge price for their failure to embrace the new technology. After first ignoring new technologies, they then proceeded to try to sue innovators, restrict users with DRM copy protection and then punish fans with indiscriminate lawsuits, none of which did a thing to stop online sharing of music. Sales are down, illegal filesharing is up, and no one has found a way to unite the industry around monetizing the sharing of digital music (though EFF has suggested a Better Way Forward).

Will the same thing happen to the publishing industry as books become digital? If the trend continues, with better devices promising longer battery life and better screen resolution, digital books will become a force to be reckoned with. Are we doomed to watch the publishing industry run through the same gamut of bad decisions that have plagued the recording industry for the last few years?


As much of a tech junkie as I am and as much reading as I do on my computer, I still prefer the feel of a book in my hands. Oh, to be sure, I have no problem reading on a computer screen and I would even think about getting an e-reader if I found one I liked (definitely not the Kindle in its current incarnation), but nothing beats the feel, the smell, the experience of leaning back in a comfortable chair with a good book in your hands and being transported away.

I own several hundred books and I intend to keep purchasing hard-copy books until the day I die. I may end up having digital copies of all of them, but they will never replace my dead tree copies.